Steep terrain for the World Champs long races (the sight looking from control 8 on the women's course)
The World Champs Long Races in Switzerland lived up to expectations with very challenging physical courses, difficult route choices and superb performances by several athletes.
The highlight for the British team was Megan Carter-Davies's seventh place, an exceptionally good result, and close behind the bronze medallist. The other British athletes had sound races. Cecilie Andersen and Jo Shepherd were 30th and 31st respectively. Peter Bray and Joshua Dudley were 37th and 39th respectively.
It was as spectacular as expected. Like at Davos last year the start was a cable car ride to 2000m on the opposite side of the valley to the arena, and long physical courses with some big route choice legs.
We spoke to three of the British team athletes afterwards. The interviews include a little film of them in the terrain; at control 8 for the women, control 11 for the men, about one third of the way round the courses.
Megan Carter-Davies, World Cup Long Race 2023, photo: On The Red Line
Peter Taylor-Bray, photo: Remy Steinegger
Cecilie Andersen, in her first forest WOC, recovered from the disappointment of not qualifying for Saturday's Middle Distance final, with 30th position.
Cecilie Andersen, photo: Remy Steinegger
The men's race was decided between the defending champion Kasper Fosser of Norway, and the Swiss Matthias Kyburz, the World Middle Distance Champion. The women's race was decided between the defending champion (and winner of all five World Champs long races since 2016) Tove Alexandersson of Sweden and the Swiss Simona Aebersold. It was the younger athletes in both cases who won close races, the golden couple Kasper and Simona - they are boyfriend/girlfriend and their pictures are all over the event publicity.
World Champions Kasper Fosser, Simona Aebersold, at the prizegiving, photo: Thomi Studhalter
The women's race was resolved first. This year is a transition year to equal winning times for women and men, with a target winning time of 82 minutes. Simona ran 81:43 and Tove 82.14, a margin of 31 seconds. Their split times are less similar with the challenging courses and physicality creating big chances (see the World of O Long Race analysis), but both were significantly quicker than the other world class athletes.
Simona Aebersold, photo: On The Red Line
Tove Alexandersson, photo: On The Red Line
Andrine Benjaminsen, photo: On The Red Line
The margin from Tove to the bronze medallist Andrine Benjaminsen of Norway was 6:49. Behind Andrine were four more athletes within two minutes: Natalia Gemperle (4th) and Elena Roos (6th) of Switzerland, Sarah Hagstrom of Sweden (5th) and Megan Carter-Davies (7th). The top-10 was completed by Marie Olaussen (Norway), European Champion Venla Harju (Finland) and Marianne Andersen (Norway.)
Returning to a theme of our article previewing the championships, the top-10 therefore includes the defending World and European champions, all the Swiss and Norwegian runners, another Swede, and Megan. The top-20 includes all the other Swedish and Finnish runners and also Tereza Janosikova of Czechia, Hanna Wisniewska of Poland, Tereza Smelikova of Slovakia, Sandra Grosberga of Latvia, and Miri Thrane Oedum of Denmark.
The target time for the men's race was 90 minutes, a slightly reduced target from previous years. The course took Kasper 93:06, and there were no complaints. His winning margin was 51 seconds, a small margin in such a race.
Kasper Fosser, who had caught nine minutes on his compatriot Eskil Kinneberg by this control 11, photo: On The Red Line
Matthias Kyburz (in the Middle Qualification), photo: On The Red Line
As with the women's race, but not quite to the same extent, the quickest two had a safe margin ahead of the others. Olli Ojanaho of Finland was 3:40 behind Matthias Kyburz, but only 14 seconds ahead of Emil Svensk of Sweden and Thomas Krivda of Czechia tieing for fourth. The Swiss Daniel Hubmann, who aims to become the oldest ever World Champion in Sunday's relay was sixth and the third Swiss Joey Hadorn was seventh. Eighth was Ruslan Glibov of Ukraine, ninth Miika Kirmula of Finland and the top10 was rounded out by Milos Nykodym of Czechia.
Olli Ojanaho, photo: On The Red Line
The next 10 places saw a welcome variety of countries represented. Accompanying more runners from the big four countries (3 more Norwegians and a Swede) were Jannis Bonek and Matthias Groell of Austria, Soren Thrane Odum of Denmark, Riccardo Scalet of Italy, Luis Nogueira of Spain and Uldis Upitis of Latvia.